Chemeketa CC Changes Free Speech Policy After Anti-Abortion Group Files Suit
The old policies limited student group demonstrations to two quad areas and required that permission be secured two weeks in advance.
SALEM, Ore. — Chemeketa Community College has agreed to change its free speech policies and pay $25,000 in attorney’s fees associated with a federal lawsuit filed against them by an anti-abortion student group.
In May, Chemeketa Students for Life, represented by the national legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, filed a lawsuit against members of the school’s Board of Education and other school officials claiming its policies on outdoor speech violated their First Amendment rights, reports The Statesman Journal.
At the time the lawsuit was filed, the community college’s policies limited student group outdoor demonstrations to two quad areas making up 60,000 square feet, which is less than 1.5% of the college’s campus, says the lawsuit. It also required student groups to secure permission two weeks in advance and provide the college with a description of their planned activities.
The student group claimed the policies prevented its members from engaging in “spontaneous expression” or promoting their events and was therefore a violation of their free speech rights.
“Our clients have the right to peacefully engage and persuade their peers. They also have the freedom to support pregnant and parenting students without censorship or harassment from their school,” Michael Ross, legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, argued last year. “The only permission slip students need in order to speak on public college campuses is the First Amendment.”
Marie Hulett, executive director of institutional advancement for Chemeketa, said the college was “happy to report that we collaborated with the students’ attorneys to revise our existing Free Speech Guidelines to the satisfaction of all parties.”
Under the settlement agreement, the school has agreed to remove its speech zones and the permission required for their use. It will now only require students to request permission and sign a release form for events that take place indoors or will exceed 400 people.
Chemeketa officials said they will continue to work to uphold the constitutional rights and civil liberties of all student groups equally.